Dashing Through Manila’s Art Scene (ie Catching What I Can)

Annie Cabigting, Warhol's grave, for "Black and White Under A Shroud of Gray and Gray"

Apologies for the sparse postings, but somehow, a project we undertook a few months ago has morphed into Art Fair Philippines 2013, and now it seems that every free minute of the day has been devoted to that beast!  For more information—yes, shameless plug!—please do check out www.artfairphilippines.com or https://www.facebook.com/artfairph Continue reading

All Around Town: DAGC Gallery, Pablo Fort, Manila Contemporary, Blanc Peninsula, and Pinto Art Gallery

Noi Gonzales, "Pakikisama", at Pinto Art Gallery

I’ve been stranded in the seven kingdoms of Westeros these past few weeks, ensnared by the five mammoth volumes of The Game of Thrones.  I thought it high time to come back to reality, to catch up on Manila’s art scene—my original form of escape.  I wanted to see some exhibits that were due to close, and to make sure I made it to some of this weekend’s more promising openings.

My two-day art binge took me from the heart of Taguig’s Global City, to the streets of Makati and yonder, all the way up to the hills of Antipolo. Continue reading

Here and There: Pow Martinez, Maria Taniguchi, Alice and Lucinda, Catalina Africa, Maria Jeona Zoleta, and Melted City

At Blanc Compound's Melted City: Hazel Lee Santino, "Lemert Park", oil on tracing paper on oil on watercolor paper

The past two weeks saw a flurry of shows opening in Manila, and I’ve spent the last few days catching up: Continue reading

Louie Cordero: To Infinity And Beyond

Louie Cordero, "Meta I", detail

The Greek word Meta means beyond or after, an extension of what is known.  Louie Cordero uses it as the title of his latest solo exhibit, and true to its definition, he takes us beyond Earth, beyond his previous works, to share his current fascination for outer space—his kitschy-Pinoy, densely packed, brightly colored version of it anyway. Continue reading

Jojo Barja’s Jungle and Rain

Renato Barja Jr., "How To Fight The Loneliness"

In The Jungle and The Rain, Renato Barja Jr. takes us on a stroll through his former neighborhood, an urban landscape he douses with the color of unpainted

Renato Barja Jr.,"Bumbo the Butcher"

cement, the same ashen hue that water turns into after it’s been used to scrub off grime.  He looks back at the love-hate relationship he maintained with this corner of Cavite, at the cast of characters he encountered for five years on a daily basis.  With them he shared in the din, the putrid smells, the overall drabness of a working class community, one that recession and Typhoon Ondoy had reduced to skid row. Continue reading

All In The Family: Mariano, Yasmin, and Haraya Ching

Mariano and Haraya Ching, "Jelly Ace Series 5" and "Jelly Ace Series 6", pyrograph and acrylic in wood

Mariano and Haraya Ching, "Jelly Ace Series 5" and "Jelly Ace Series 6", pyrograph and acrylic on wood

Just call it family bonding, Ching-style.  To most parents, especially those with busy careers and young children, spending time with their families means doing things together, mostly on weekends:  eating out, catching a movie, indulging in sports, visiting grandparents.  To artists Yasmin Sison and Mariano Ching,  it is inevitable that in addition to these, art plays a large part in their interaction with their five-year-old son, Haraya. They have  both just come off from doing work for shows out of Manila (Yasmin’s solo, Spaces In Between, was at Artesan in Singapore in June, while Nano participates in Japan’s Aichi Triennale this month). In this exhibit, Games For Growing, at Blanc Peninsula,  they come together as a couple and as a family, showing individual and collaborative work borne out of their role as parents to a precocious child.  To quote from Yasmin’s exhibit statement,”…the exhibition Continue reading

Dina Gadia Grabs You

As I walked around Blanc’s original space to view Dina Gadia’s current solo exhibit, I remembered a cramped hole in the wall

Dina Gadia with "Action 2"

that I chanced upon two years ago in Hong Kong.  Squeezed in between antique stores and art galleries in Hollywood Road, the tiny space sold vintage Chinese cinema banners and bundles of ancestor portraits. Dina’s current crop of paintings would have fit right in.

Jay Pacena, Allan Balisi, and Dina with "Walk"

How Does That Grab You Darling takes off from Dina’s fascination with B-movie posters from the 1930s to the 1970s.  She uses bright, even acidic, shades that give off a retro vibe.  Her compositions, usually of various images and texts juxtaposed as if pasted atop each other in layers, look more like collages than painted images.  Her background in advertising and graphic design comes out very strongly.  As do her Pop Art influences.

Dina Gadia, "Foul Horror"

You hear a bit of a buzz about Dina Gadia from art collectors these days.  This show certainly provides sustenance to her fans.

How Does That Grab You Darling runs from 16 April to 8 May 2010 at Blanc Art Space, 2E Crown Tower, 170 HV Dela Costa St., Salcedo Village, Makati City.  Phone(632)752-0032 or visit http://www.blanc.ph

Mixed media piece by Dina Gadia

Dina Gadia, "Dynamite 2"

By Dina Gadia


Janet Balbarona Is Peachy Keen

Janet Balbarona, "Ricochet 2"

To spark the inspiration that took the Man of La Mancha on his impossible quest, Manuel de Cervantes reportedly wrote while sitting immersed up to his knees in pails of freezing water. He believed that the cold stimulated his literary juices.  Artist Janet Balbarona can definitely relate to such unorthodox creativity boosters.  She herself has not been averse to donning a ball gown or two while completing her paintings.  To prepare for her second solo exhibit, she has taken up residence at the artist’s studio of Blanc Compound in Mandaluyong. Two suitcases crammed with outfits and accessories, plus a horde of shoes, fill her bedroom.

Janet Balbarona, "Dear"

Kailangan ma- feed ko ang fashion fix when I paint,” the 27-year-old Janet reveals, laughing. Tonight she wears a bright orange, a-line tube, her black bra straps exposed on otherwise bare shoulders, neon yellow sneakers on her feet. A patch of scalp lies visible beneath the close shave of her asymmetric haircut.  “I love Vivienne Westwood and anything from the eighties,” she shares.  But she goes by what feels right as she works.  “Sometimes as I paint a particular detail, feel ko dapat naka red ako. So, palit ako in the middle of painting that object.  Sometimes, magkaiba pa ang shoes ko!” Unsurprisingly, Janet’s pieces resemble collages put together like a designer’s look book of clothing illustrations.   As the daughter of tailors, fashion figures largely in her compositions.

An onlooker for "Staring Finger Print" and "The Second Round"


Detail, "The Second Round"

“My pieces look like pages of a scrapbook, parang unfinished, ungrounded, raw.  I put in what seem to be random elements, pero may meaning lahat yon.” Beneath the insouciance, the brilliant hues, and the trendy vibe, lie deeply personal stories.  In this exhibit, Peeling Peaches For The Sharpest Tongue, she fills her canvases with various depictions of herself, each one a narrative of her life in Beijing.  She includes mementos gathered as she partied and painted her way around the Chinese capital.

Janet Balbarona, "Online Candy"

Janet moved to China in 2008, four years after graduating with a Fine Arts degree from Far Eastern University, and a year after a stint in Perth doing commissioned portraits for an aboriginal rights group.  In Beijing, she gravitated around the club scene, hanging out with DJs and young fashion designers. Inevitably, Janet hooked up with some artists and started working on her art.  The galleries in the 798 arts district, although interested in her portfolio, felt that the market would not take her seriously until she had a few one-man exhibits in her resume. Early in 2009, she headed home to make her Manila debut.  Her pieces have since found their way into the collections of the local art cognoscenti.


Janet Balbarona, "Sweet Thoughtfulness"



In this current body of work, Janet weaves images of peaches into all her paintings.   She throws them in, innocuous and hardly apparent, amidst her self-portraits. The peaches and peach blossoms serve as ornaments, the same way they adorn classical Chinese paintings.  You can tell which of her works relive good memories.  For these, Janet renders her peaches plump, pink, juicy.  Otherwise, she depicts them rotten and decayed, decomposing amidst scavenging rats.

Janet’s pieces possess the frankness of Janet herself. She goes through unexpected lengths to portray the truth.  Before she could bring herself to get started on this show, even as her canvases had already been stretched and primed, and her frocks lay waiting to be slipped on, she found herself flying to Hong Kong. She spent a week seeking closure to an incident that she wanted to include in this exhibit.  Her paintings deliver sincerity in a stylish package.


If each painting recounts an episode, then this entire show can be viewed as a full account of Janet Balbarona’s eventful year.  Through her pieces, we find ourselves vicariously reliving the life of a hip, peripatetic romantic.   Manuel de Cervantes may actually have a word for her:  quixotic.

Peeling Peaches For The Sharpest Tongue runs from 22 February to  12 March 2010 at Blanc Makati, 2E Crown Tower, 107 Dela Costa St., Salcedo Village, Makati.  Phone (632)752-0032 or visit http://www.blanc.ph

Janet Balbarona, "Staring Finger Print"

This post is a slightly edited version of my article for Rogue Magazine Feb 2010 issue.  See http://www.rogue.ph







Something Different Part II: Art Sanchez at Blanc Makati

Detail of Art Sanchez, "Saturation Point"

Detail of Art Sanchez, "Saturation Point"

art sanchez 6

Art Sanchez, "Between Raindrops and Sunshine 6"

Art Sanchez works with collages on mirrors.  I first saw his work a few weeks ago when some friends and I set out on a sojourn to Quezon City to check out the art scene away from our comfort zone of Makati.  We all agreed he seemed an artist to keep an eye out for.  For his first solo show, he brings us even more interesting collages.  For two of them, his larger pieces, he combines the mirrors with oil paintings on canvas.  He starts by scratching out the paint behind mirrors and seals his cut outs with lacquer or paint.  As you can see from the photos, they come out kinda cool!

Art Sanchez, "Saturation Point"

Art Sanchez, "Saturation Point"

Art Sanchez, "Afterthoughts...thoughts after"

Art Sanchez, "Afterthoughts...thoughts after"

Afterthoughts by Art Sanchez runs from 6 July at Blanc Art Space, 2E Crown Tower, 107 HV Dela Costa St., Salcedo Village, Makati.  Ph (632)752-0032 or visit

Art Sanchez, "Test Subjects"

Art Sanchez, "Test Subjects"


Detail of Art Sanchez, "Test Subjects"

Detail , "Test Subjects"

Art Sanchez exhibit installation

Art Sanchez exhibit installation, at center is "Floating Moodswing"